Category

YOW Pioneers

Category

Josephine Baker

Bearing many monikers – Black Pearl, Bronze Venus, Creole Goddess – Josephine Baker was the first woman of color to star in a major motion picture and to become an international entertainer. Born Freda Josephine McDonald she was adopted by former slaves of African and Native American ancestry and raised by them in Little Rock, Arkansas. Themselves stage performers, they introduced their daughter to the stage when she was only a year old. Josephine was persistently slovenly and underfed as a child due to her family’s impoverishment. She had very little education, attending elementary school only up to fifth grade. At eight-years-old, Josephine started working as a live-in maid for wealthy white families. Fleeing abusive employers, one of whom burned her hands after she put too much soap in the laundry, she often lived on the streets, sleeping in cardboard boxes, eating food out of garbage cans, and dancing on…

Elizabeth Blackwell – First Female M.D.

Although born in Britain, Elizabeth Blackwell has the distinction of being the first woman to receive a medical degree in the US. Making pioneering strides for women in medicine, she went on to become a social and moral reformer in the US and her native UK. Following in her footsteps, her sister Emily was the third woman in the US to earn a medical degree. One of nine children, Elizabeth and Emily had a happy, but financially troubled childhood. In an effort to bolster their financial standing, the family started its own school, The Cincinnati English and French Academy for Young Ladies. Elizabeth then went on to accept a position teaching music in North Carolina to save for her medical school tuition and expenses. Elizabeth Blackwell’s greatest ambition was to attend medical school. Of her aspirations, she said, “My mind is fully made up. I have not the slightest hesitation…

Julia de Burgos

Puerto Rican poet, Julia de Burgos was more than a master writer and poet. She was also a tireless advocate for Puerto Rican independence. The oldest in a family of thirteen children, Julia de Burgos was born to a farming family in Carolina, Puerto Rico, though her father also served in the National Guard. Per Burgos, her childhood played a large part in her writings. She said, “My childhood was all a poem in the river, and a river in the poem of my first dreams.” Her family eventually relocated to Wiedras, where she won a scholarship to University High School. Following that graduation, she attended the University of Puerto Rico intending to become a teacher. She graduated at only nineteen years old with a degree in education and taught elementary school. She retired from teaching when she married Ruben Rodrigues Beauchamp in 1936. Sadly, this marriage ended in…

Rachel Carson

American marine biologist, Rachel Louise Carson was the author of Silent Spring, a groundbreaking book that is nationally credited with advancing the global environmental movement. Other books on conservation by Rachel Carson include Under The Sea Around Us, The Edge of the Sea, and Witness for Nature. She was also the author or numerous articles, one of which was deemed too good for the publication it was intended for, and turned into one of her award-winning books. Rachel started her career as an aquatic biologist for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries. Her environmental attention turned to conservation and she fought to bring environmental concerns to the attention of the American people. She was born in 1907 on a small family farm in Pennsylvania. An avid reader as a child, she began writing stories as young as eight years old. Her first story was published when she was only ten…

Marie Connolly Owens – First Female Police Officer

We do not think twice about women serving in various roles of law enforcement today. Their courageous service is lauded and appreciated. What about the woman who started it all? One brave woman paved the way for the legions of female law enforcement officers who serve our communities today. Marie Connolly Owens was part of a large Irish Catholic family from the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago who became Chicago’s – in fact, the world’s – very first female police officer. Born in Ottawa, Canada, she eventually emigrated to the US with her husband, Thomas. The couple settled in Chicago and went on to have five children before his death in 1888. Charged with raising and supporting her children on her own, Owens found work in the City Health Department as one of only five female factory inspectors. Following her work in this capacity, she was relocated to the Chicago…

Mаriе Curiе

Mаriа Sklоdоwѕkа, bеttеr known аѕ Mаriе Curie, wаѕ bоrn in Wаrѕаw in modern-day Pоlаnd оn Nоvеmbеr 7, 1867. Hеr раrеntѕ were bоth teachers, аnd ѕhе wаѕ thе уоungеѕt of five children, fоllоwing ѕiblingѕ Zоѕiа, Józеf, Brоnуа аnd Hеlа. Aѕ a сhild Curie tооk аftеr hеr fаthеr, Wlаdуѕlаw, a mаth and рhуѕiсѕ inѕtruсtоr. Shе hаd a bright and curious mind аnd excelled аt school. But tragedy ѕtruсk early, аnd whеn ѕhе wаѕ only 10, Curiе lоѕt hеr mother, Brоniѕlаwа, tо tubеrсulоѕiѕ. A tор student in her ѕесоndаrу ѕсhооl, Curiе соuld nоt аttеnd thе men-only University of Wаrѕаw. Shе inѕtеаd соntinuеd hеr еduсаtiоn in Wаrѕаw’ѕ “flоаting university,” a ѕеt оf undеrgrоund, infоrmаl classes held in ѕесrеt. Bоth Curiе аnd hеr ѕiѕtеr Bronya drеаmеd of going аbrоаd tо еаrn аn official degree, but thеу lacked the finаnсiаl rеѕоurсеѕ tо рау fоr more ѕсhооling. Undeterred, Curie wоrkеd оut a dеаl with her ѕiѕtеr. She…

Elizabeth Jane Cochran

Elizabeth Cochran Seaman is more famously known by her pen name, Nellie Bly. As a child, Cochran’s parents instilled the importance of education and hard work in their children. Her father immigrated from Ireland and eventually purchased the local mill and the majority of the land around the family home. The family made a moderate living, but Elizabeth was forced to drop out of boarding school due to financial constraints. When the family relocated to Pittsburgh, a derisive letter in the local newspaper titled, What Girls Are Good For, angered her so much that she sent in a scathing, albeit anonymous, reply. The editor was so impressed with the letter that he ran an ad asking the author to identify herself. Cochran did so and he offered her the chance to write a follow up article. This article also impressed the editor and led to an offer of a full-time…

Mary Wollstonecraft

Eighteenth century writer, Mary Wollstonecraft, overcame a difficult childhood to become a philosopher and Women’s Rights Activist. Born in 1759 in Spitalfields, London, she was the second of seven children. While her family initially enjoyed a comfortable living, they soon fell on hard times. There financial situation became so dire that Mary was eventually forced to relinquish an inheritance she would have received later in life so that her family could subsist. Wollstonecraft often slept outside her parent’s bedroom door to protect her mother from the violently drunken rages of her alcoholic father. Because her education was limited, Mary taught herself by frequently visiting the home of a friend with an extensive library. Mary was infamous for her uncommon friendships. With Jane Arden, she read books and attended lectures. With Fanny Blood, she was introduced to Sarah Dawson eventually becoming her lady’s maid. An avid reader and prolific writer, she…

Simone Micheline Bodin (aka Bettina Graziani)

You might not typically think of a fashion model as a groundbreaker, but Bettina Graziani certainly was. Born in 1925, Simone Micheline Bodin, known in professional circles as Bettina Graziani, was a woman of stunning beauty. Behind that beauty, there was talent and skill far above her famed good looks. Her childhood was difficult after her father abandoned the family. She was raised by her single mother on a school teacher’s salary during the war in Paris. Bettina’s original plan was to become a fashion designer, not a model. She organized fashion shows and performed PR and marketing tasks for several design houses. Bettina was a muse first for designer, Jacques Fath, who used her as a model and helped her gain fame. She embodied the “wasp-waisted, cigarette-smoking, haute-couture sophisticate” of her day. She said in an interview, “I was very young, very genuine. I wore no makeup and I…

Coco Chanel

A truе myth, rеѕроnѕiblе fоr mоѕt of the mаjоr сhаngеѕ оссurring in wоmеn clothing in the twеntiеth сеnturу, соnѕidеrеd one оf the forces оf thе fеminiѕt mоvеmеnt frоm the bеginning of last сеnturу, Mаdеmоiѕеllе Cосо Chanel сrеаtеd an elegant аnd timеlеѕѕ fashion, mаintаinеd until thе present day, mаking itѕ brаnd synonymous оf еlеgаnсе аnd comfort. Thе Hiѕtоrу Tо tеll thе hiѕtоrу of thе CHANEL mаrk iѕ indispensable tо know a littlе of the life of itѕ creator. The Frеnсh dеѕignеr, whо became thе ѕуmbоl оf a rеvоlutiоn in mаnnеrѕ аnd аttitudе оf women in thе social ѕсеnе, асԛuirеd thе elegance аnd simplicity as a way оf ѕurvivаl. Mуthоmаniас, nеvеr wаntеd tо аdmit hеr рооr origin. It wаѕ only after her death in 1971, thаt thе асtuаl fасtѕ of hеr сhildhооd bесаmе knоwn tо the рubliс. Born in thе French соuntrуѕidе in thе tоwn оf Saumur on Auguѕt 19, 1883, Gabrielle…